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  • Writer's pictureAnn Christensen

Mindfulness: Explore bipolar biases

Updated: Sep 19, 2019

“Most happy, confident people are slightly delusional,” says Richard O’Connor, author of Rewire: Change your brain to break bad habits, overcome addictions, conquer self-destructive behavior.

The bipolar personality suffers from both negative and positive biases. Once we become more aware of how our minds work, we are better equipped to make desired change.

Manic Biases

Let’s start with the overly positive (or manic) person.

The Manic Motto is: I'm OK and you're not.

* Manics have a certain set of optimistic or self-serving biases that include:

* We are all better than average.

* We’re more honest, more ethical and more impartial and our motivations are more pure than most people’s.

* We believe that our weaknesses are very common, “just part of being human.”

* Our strengths are unique and valuable.

* We believe we will live about ten years longer than the statistical average for our age.

* The good things in our life are due to our own wonderful self and our ability to make good decisions.

* The bad things that happen are just “bad luck.”

* Successes reflect our innate talents

* Failures are due to outside circumstances.

We have faith in positive feedback but are very skeptical of negative.

We remember successes more than failures.

Depressive Biases

Depressive personalities are often more realistic. We make more accurate assessments and are much better at planning projects and assessing cost-benefits and liabilities. Here are some of the biases for the depressive side of bipolar disorder:

The Depressive Motto: You can't win for losing.

* We have a predisposition to view the past favorably (rosy retrospection) and see the future negatively.

* We also have a tendency to have a greater recall of unpleasant memories compared to positive recollections.

* Our “dread aversion” has twice the emotional impact of our ability to anticipate, or savour.

* When a specific task is perceived to be “too difficult” our confidence in our abilities is too conservative.

* The opposite is true for the manic side of bipolar.

If we have “hostile attribution bias,” we have a tendency to interpret others’ behaviors as having hostile intent, even when the behavior is ambiguous and not obvious.

* We have “bad luck.”

* Sometimes we feel the world is “out to get us.”

Why is knowing more about my biases helpful?

Learning more about your thought processes, emotional network and underlying biases deepens your self awareness and is part of any Mindfulness practice.

Ask yourself these questions:

* Where did that thought come from?

* Is this belief accurate?

* Why am I feeling this?

* What bias might it reflect? Where is the origin of this bias?

* What facts do I know that support this line of reasoning?

* Why am I thinking or perceiving this right now?

For a longer list of cognitive biases, Wikipedia has an astonishing collection that shows how faulty thinking affects our decision-making, beliefs, behaviors, social interactions and creates memory errors.

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